Men’s baseball opened the 2019 season with a close loss to California Lutheran University at the Cactus Classic in Arizona. The team left the invitational with an overall score of 1-3 after facing off against three more schools.
The Comets suffered an 8-5 defeat against CLU despite a strong opening in the top of the first which netted the team five hits. UTD’s opening hits were quickly countered by a series of doubles from CLU in the bottom of the first as well as a hit on a wild pitch which led to a 5-5 clincher in the bottom of the third. CLU then overtook the Comets with doubles and steals leading to an 8-5 lead in the sixth inning, bringing the team to victory.
The play-by-play of this year’s game against CLU mimics that of last season, where the two teams faced off and the Comets went home with a 7-5 loss in their second game of the Cactus Classic. Going into the game, head baseball coach Shane Shewmake said the Comets were facing sizable opponents.
“This season going in, it’s good competition. Right off the bat, those teams are all going to be good, and we’ve got to show up there ready to play,” Shewmake said. “You never know, you’re out there trying to win every one of them, but sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you’d like it to.”
The team played Whitman College the next day and lost 5-4 in a game that was up in the air until the seventh inning. With a 2-2 tie at the top of the seventh, Whitman scored three times after hitting singles and advancing due to pitcher error. UTD bottomed out the seventh with two hits, falling just short of Whitman’s lead, closing the game in the ninth with a close loss.
The team turned its luck around in the last game of the tournament on Feb. 9, pulling in a 15-5 win against Pacific Lutheran University. That win was followed by a 16-4 loss against the University of La Verne the following day.
Shewmake said the team has changed considerably since last season after 16 seniors graduated. He said new players would have to step up to the plate this year. He said freshman pitchers Orion Drymond, Brett Bihm and Ryan Vera were the standout players among the newest members of the team.
“Those freshmen are going to have a chance to step in right away and get some meaningful innings for us,” Shewmake said. “We’re counting on big things from those guys.”
Drymond scored six hits and five runs in his starting game against CLU and pitched for about two innings while Bihm pitched for five innings against Whitman, gaining five hits and two runs. Vera also pitched against CLU for one inning, gaining one hit.
Last season, the team reached the ASC Championship Tournament finals as well as the NCAA Division III Regional Tournaments and had a 32-17 overall record. The team was also ranked eighth in the NCAA DIII regional rankings for the 2018 season. Shewmake said he hopes to accomplish all of that and more this season.
“Every year, our goal is to win a conference championship and go play in a regional and try to win that, and go play for a national championship,” Shewmake said. “We’ve got some new faces that are going to have to step up, but we’ve also got some guys coming back that have been through it a little bit and understand what it takes and we’re going to be counting on those guys to lead the way.”